Championship Analysis - Burnley lead the way after win over Reading
Burnley head into the international break top of the Championship after a 2-1 win over Reading on Saturday, their sixth in seven matches. Sean Dyche won September’s Manager of the Month award but the supposed curse didn’t strike, leaving the Clarets ahead of QPR on goal difference having taken advantage of the Hoops’ evening off on Tuesday.
It’s been a remarkable start by Burnley, whose solitary defeat was at Brighton on August 24, particularly after losing Charlie Austin, who scored 28 times for the club last season, to QPR just days before the season. Austin reiterated his scoring prowess when he netted his fifth and sixth goals of the season for Rangers in their 2-0 win over bottom club Barnsley.
Burnley finished 11th last season so naturally there was concern over who could fill the void left by Austin this time around. Dyche appears to have found a resounding answer in the potent duo of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, who both feature in the top five of the goalscoring charts and in all competitions have netted 19 goals between them so far.
Even Reading manager Nigel Adkins was purring about the pair’s performance on Saturday, describing them as “exceptional throughout”. Both could be international action next weekend as Ings has been called up to the England Under 21 squad for the first time, while Vokes, still only 23, is in the full Welsh squad to face Macedonia.
The Clarets were in the Premier League as recently as 2010 so it would be foolish to describe the club as a surprise package. Dyche believes his players are capable of handling the pressure although has continually made reference to his tight budget and small squad.
“The next challenges are to make sure we keep them fit, and what happens if one or two do get away from us. That's when the mentality is really tested and when our resolve as a group is important,” he said following Tuesday’s win at Doncaster. Saturday’s result suggests it’s so far, so good.
Despite being toppled by Burnley, QPR, with a game in hand, are still in control of the division and registered their eighth consecutive clean sheet against Barnsley. Many have expressed their surprise at Harry Redknapp’s somewhat conservative approach - indeed, staggeringly, only eight clubs have scored fewer than their tally of 12 - but a strong spine is vital to Premier League survival and being tough to beat often takes precedence over flamboyance at the top level. As such, it isn’t surprising that, despite a lack of goals, Rangers are third overall on goal difference and remain the only unbeaten team in the league.
At the other end, Sheffield Wednesday are now the only club without a win after Bolton finally got off the mark with a gutsy victory at Birmingham. Wednesday will be desperately hoping the Trotters, who climbed out of the relegation zone as a result, won’t break their duck at the Reebok Stadium next, as that’s their destination in a fortnight’s time. The Owls then travel to Barnsley as the battle at the bottom heats up.
In Sunday’s game Wigan followed up their fine win over Maribor in the Europa League with a last-gasp victory over Blackburn. The Latics remain a modest 12th but are two fixtures behind; wins in both would propel them into the play-off zone.
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